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Acclaimed Iranian director won’t attend Oscars due to ‘unjust conditions’ of Trump executive order

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi poses for a photo during the premiere of his film, “The Salesman,” in Paris. (Michel Euler/AP)

President Trump’s executive order barring entry for visa-holders from Iran and six other countries will be felt at this year’s Oscars.

Acclaimed Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, whose movie “The Salesman” is nominated for best foreign film, announced Sunday he won’t be at the Academy Awards — even if he were granted a travel exemption.

Farhadi explained in a statement he had planned to attend the February ceremony, particularly since many in the film industry stand “opposed to the fanaticism and extremism which are today taking place more than ever.”

“However, it now seems that the possibility of this presence is being accompanied by ifs and buts which are in no way acceptable to me even if exceptions were to be made for my trip,” he said in a statement, first reported by the New York Times.

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In a statement on Saturday, an Academy spokesperson said “as supporters of filmmakers — and the human rights of all people — around the globe, we find it extremely troubling” that Farhadi, and his cast and crew, could be barred from entering the United States.

Last week, “The Salesman” actress Taraneh Alidoosti announced she wouldn’t come to this year’s Academy Awards, referring to the restriction on travel as “racist.”

As protests took hold at several U.S. airports Saturday, several judicial rulings blocked enforcement of the executive order to varying degrees. But the Department of Homeland Security signaled Sunday that it would continue to implement the order, which applies to migrants, refugees and green-card holding legal residents of the U.S. from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Libya and Yemen. Others who are dual nationals of those countries and American allies, such as European nations, also can be denied entry.

“Prohibited travel will remain prohibited, and the U.S. government retains its right to revoke visas at any time if required for national security or public safety,” the DHS statement said. “No foreign national in a foreign land, without ties to the United States, has any unfettered right to demand entry into the United States or to demand immigration benefits in the United States.”

Other filmmakers have joined Farhadi in voluntarily not coming to the United States in protest of Trump’s order. Variety reported that Hussein Hassan, director of the Iraqi film “Reseba — The Dark Wind,” canceled his visa application to attend the U.S. premiere of his movie, slated for the Miami Film Festival. The movie’s producer, Mehmet Aktas, called it a “peaceful protest” of the executive order.

“One of Miami Film Festival’s core values is to bridge cultural understanding, to provoke thought and discussion, and ‘The Dark Wind’ is one of the most timely, moving, and important films in this year’s festival,” film festival director Jaie Laplante told Variety. “It is essential that roadblocks not be put in place that will prevent artists from the free discussion of their work, and equally essential that the world’s artists are made to feel welcome in the United States.”

But Farhadi’s decision could be the most high-profile cultural fallout of the executive order. Despite the critical praise Iranian cinema has long received, no Iranian film had ever won an Oscar until Farhadi’s 2011 movie, “A Separation.” That year, he was also nominated in a non-foreign language category, for best screenplay.

During his 2012 Oscars acceptance speech, Farhadi dedicated his award to the Iranian people.

“At this time, many Iranians all over the world are watching us and I imagine them to be very happy,” he said in the much-talked about speech. “They are happy not just because of an important award or a film or filmmaker, but because at the time when talk of war, intimidation and aggression is exchanged between politicians, the name of their country Iran is spoken here through her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics.”

That same year, Time magazine named Farhadi one of its top 100 most influential people, with film critic Richard Corliss writing that the director “became a de facto spokesman for a besieged people, and his movie the face of a complex modern society.”

On Sunday, Farhadi echoed his history of using the Oscars and cinema as a platform to convey a deeper message by explaining what he would have said to the press had he been able to travel to the United States:

“Hard-liners, despite their nationalities, political arguments and wars, regard and understand the world in very much the same way,” he said. “In order to understand the world, they have no choice but to regard it via an ‘us and them’ mentality, which they use to create a fearful image of ‘them’ and inflict fear in the people of their own countries.”

Here’s the rest of the statement, per the New York Times:

This is not just limited to the United States; in my country hardliners are the same. For years on both sides of the ocean, groups of hardliners have tried to present to their people unrealistic and fearful images of various nations and cultures in order to turn their differences into disagreements, their disagreements into enmities and their enmities into fears. Instilling fear in the people is an important tool used to justify extremist and fanatic behavior by narrow-minded individuals.
However, I believe that the similarities among the human beings on this earth and its various lands, and among its cultures and its faiths, far outweigh their differences. I believe that the root cause of many of the hostilities among nations in the world today must be searched for in their reciprocal humiliation carried out in its past and no doubt the current humiliation of other nations are the seeds of tomorrow’s hostilities. To humiliate one nation with the pretext of guarding the security of another is not a new phenomenon in history and has always laid the groundwork for the creation of future divide and enmity. I hereby express my condemnation of the unjust conditions forced upon some of my compatriots and the citizens of the other six countries trying to legally enter the United States of America and hope that the current situation will not give rise to further divide between nations.
Asghar Farhadi, Iran

This post has been updated.